Record-setting DC quiz show ‘It’s Academic’ searches for new sponsor to keep tradition alive

A popular morning quiz show that has featured D.C. area high schoolers for generations needs help staying on the air.

After hitting the airwaves in 1961, “It’s Academic” would go on to become a Saturday morning regional staple and the longest-running quiz program in television history, according to the Guinness Book of World Records.

For more than 50 of its 60-year run, the show has been sponsored by supermarket chain Giant Food.

Susan Altman, current “It’s Academic” producer and daughter of show creator Sophie Altman, was recently informed this would be the final year of Giant’s sponsorship — leaving the record-setting program’s future uncertain.

“Giant first joined our show because the head of Giant, Izzy Cohen, who was an immigrant, said that they always believed the one thing nobody can take away from you is your education,” Altman said.

“So he was a big proponent of education, and he started the sponsorship with It’s Academic and it continued for over 50 years.”

But the food retailer is shifting their sponsorships to food insecurity causes, sending the program on a search for a new sponsor in hope of keeping it alive for another half-century.

“If we can get another sponsor, yes, another 50-60 years would be good for us,” Altman said,  “We don’t know how it will work, whether we would be broadcasting from space or what, but we expect there will be plenty of kids who will be happy to participate.”

For a sense of the show’s longevity, last weekend’s broadcast included McLean high schooler Noah Chin — who followed in his grandfather’s footsteps.

“My grandfather, Allen Chin, was on the show in 1967 and 1968,” Chin said. “He won in 1967.”

Even the pandemic didn’t stop the show. They got creative and came up with ways to stay on the air through Zoom.

“So many teachers told us that it was very important to them because so many high school activities had to be canceled this year,” said Altman. “So this is one thing they were able to continue with.”

WTOP’s Hillary Howard is the current host. She took over from longtime presenter Mac McGarry after his retirement in 2011. Howard is also WTOP’s afternoon drive anchor.

Michelle Murillo

Michelle Murillo has been a part of the WTOP family since 2014. She started her career in Central Florida before working in radio in New York City and Philadelphia.

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